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While the Mavericks are becoming as automatic as blinking -- would you believe 21-1 since December 13? -- Dallas' amateur basketball team has kinda, sorta been issued an ugly reality check. Once upon a time, first-year coach Matt Doherty and his scrappy 'Stangs were off to a magical season. Turns out it was more of a mirage season.

The Ponies, who tonight host Tulane, are off to an 0-4 conference start for the first time since 1994 and last weekend lost to UT-El Paso before a sparse 3,000 at Moody Coliseum. A 9-1 start has melted into an 11-7 middle, lowlighted by ugly losses to North Carolina A&T and Central Florida. In other words, March Madness is being pre—empted by January Badness.

But there is good news on The Hilltop: SMU's football program recently won a prestigious award from the American Football Coaches Association. No, not for a bowl win, you silly ninny. For graduating 100 percent of its 2000-'01 class. Small steps, Peruna. Small steps. --Richie Whitt

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